Pacific | Fa'anānā Efeso Collins

University of Auckland farewells its first Pasifika student association president

Fa’anānā Efeso Collins was the first Pacific AUSA president and led many leaders to follow in his footsteps.

The memorial photo of Fa'anānā Efeso Collins at the entrance of the Fale Pasifika (UOA).

Singing, laughing, and weeping today showed the rollercoaster of emotions felt inside the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland.

Staff, students, and alumni gathered to share stories about Greens MP Fa’anānā Efeso Collins who died unexpectedly last Wednesday.

In his elegy, Poutiaki Rangahau (Māori pro vice-chancellor) Geremy Hema, reminisced about the time then prime minister Helen Clark visited the university during the Foreshore and Seabed debate in 2004.

“We Māori had a very strong membership at the time and he said, ‘She’s going to be doing a walk around campus’ and he said, ‘You fellas aren’t going to do anything? Not going to throw eggs or do a haka or something like that,’” he recalled.

“But I respected the way he humbly came to us seeking our support so the Prime Minister’s visit on campus would not be an undignified event. He allowed us to express our discontent with the proposed legislation at the time.”

Gerry Hema (Ngāti Paoa, Te Rarawa)

Fa’anānā launched into politics 25 years ago when he was elected the first Pacific person to be the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) president.

For 15 years, Collins dedicated his efforts to the university where in 2002, he initiated Dream Fono, a mentoring and leadership programme for Year 12 students to foster their ambitions.

Otago’s Pacific community engagement manager Tofilau Nina Kirifi-alai walked to the podium for her speech singing a Samoan waiata, O le malo lea, a song that celebrates a highly respected chief, Lauaki, who died suddenly.

“This very space, the old Pacific studies (Fale Pasifika), when he was here with many other leaders he started the whole revolution that inspired all other universities in New Zealand.

I stand here proud, that’s why I started with that song, Even though we’ve lost him, he gifted us victory. We’re sad because we’ve been denied someone so perfect, someone who was larger than life,” she said as tears ran down her face.

Fa'anānā Efeso Collins at Tipene Fineral Home

A representative of his alumni friends said he had a part-time job during his studies in the mid-1990s to supplement his parents’ income but never let that get in the way of his studies even after joining all the Pacific clubs.

Fa’anānā was a second-generation Samoan who, after graduating in 1999, worked at the university partnerships office as a community liaison and then became an assistant editor for Green Bananas,the Pacific staff newsletter.

UOA Faculty of Arts administration representative, Sharon Televave, who wore Green in support of her best friend, revalled what he and she used to call the Green Party behind closed doors.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m wearing Green this evening, I’m repping my brother’s Green Party or what Fes (Efeso) and I called the “ai maruana” (smoke weed) party,” she said.

His friend Sharon Televave even painted her nails Green im rememberance of him.

Fa’anānā first joined the AUSA in 1994 at what was then known as the cultural affairs office and in 1997 became the association’s first Pacific Island students officer, a role that still exists.

Current AUSA president Alan Shaker said that after conversations with Collins and other presidents, their main memory of him was he loved to talk.

“But that was such a strength of his,. When he spoke in a room you already knew that every single person in that room from the front to the back to the ends was actively listening to what he had to say.

“We invited him to a couple of our events at AUSA as a guest speaker last year and I don’t think anyone would be able to capture a room of university students on Sunday afternoon as well as he could,” he said.

AUSA President Alan Shaker was inspired by Collins' work.

Fa’anānā's funeral will be broadcast live on Te Ao Māori News’ Facebook page this Thursday.